Potatoes on sale at Olokirikirain on the Narok-Nakuru road. FILE PHOTO | NMG Vehicle leasing firm, VAELL has received a Sh51.2 million grant from the European Union (EU) to facilitate supply of tractors to potato farmers in Narok County at an affordable rate.
Under the AgriFI Kenya Challenge Fund, co-financed by the European Union and SlovakAid through its action fund coordinator Self Help Africa, VAELL will be tasked with leasing tractors to spur increased farm mechanisation and construction of potato cold-storage facilities to ease loss attributed to poor storage.
“This agreement with VAELL will see 10,000 smallholder potato farmers’ trained on proper farm husbandry with a keen focus on conservation agriculture techniques, especially conservation tillage,” said Self Help Africa country director Rebecca Amukhoye.
The project to be implemented by VAELL’s subsidiary TingA will help farmers prepare farms, weed and eventually harvest on a mechanised platform that hardly involves manual work.
Potato farming that yields up to Sh50 billion annually benefitting about two million Kenyans and 800,000 potato farmers has in the past suffered from seed bottlenecks that usually hurt yields. With proper management, farmers can harvest 40 tonnes per hectare but this has been reduced to 3.5 tonnes, which Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology Institute of Biotechnology Research director Aggrey Nyende blames on the less than one percent access to clean certified seeds.
TingA general manager Philip Nyandieka said construction of the cold storage facilities will enable farmers delay the sale of potatoes for up to four months thereby helping them withhold harvest and wait for prices to rise. Last June, the EU unveiled a Sh6.62 billion package for onward lending to farmers and agro-processors servicing demand-driven contracts with Sh5.7 billion being lent out on a long-tenure basis of seven years on a collateral-free basis.
A further Sh962 million is to be dished out in two equal halves—one as a loan managed by Equity Bank and another as a grant to be given to successful applicants by the facilitator Self Help Africa.
TingA, has trained 3,000 farmers across the country on modern potato farming techniques where it will work with farmer associations in Meru, Laikipia and now Narok counties.